Mary Fitzsimons is the epilepsy eHealth lead with FutureNeuro and the Director of the Epilepsy Lighthouse Project. She is a medical physicist with more than 2 decades experience in epilepsy research and service delivery nationally. She is a pioneer of the clinical application of eHealth in Ireland and has secured more than €4 million in research funding in the areas of advanced neuro-imaging, neurophysiology, eHealth and health informatics.
Her interest in the role of information sharing and exchange to promote integration of services and care in chronic disease management resulted in her bringing an electronic patient record (EPR) for epilepsy from concept through design, development and implementation. Starting as a research project in Beaumont Hospital where she was the head of the Department of Neurophysics, the epilepsy EPR was then integrated into the HSE Clinical Care Programme for Epilepsy (NCCPE) where it is in daily use with over 9000 records supporting more than 500 clinical encounters per month at epilepsy centres across Ireland.
The epilepsy EPR project received a Taoiseach’s Excellence in Public Service Award and in 2016, the HSE selected the EPR as a Lighthouse Project to demonstrate how eHealth technologies can help improve quality and safety in the delivery of health care.
Mary undertook a full-time research secondment to RCSI as an Honorary Senior Research Fellow and Principal Investigator leading the Epilepsy Lighthouse project entitled: Providing Individualised Services and Care in Epilepsy (PISCES), which is about using eHealth technologies to promote a model of precision, proactive and personalised (3P) healthcare for people with epilepsy across Ireland.
She led the collaboration between:
- eHealth Ireland
- the NCCPE
- Epilepsy specialist services across Ireland (based at St James’s Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital and Temple Street Childrens University Hospital Dublin, Galway, Cork, Sligo and Limerick University Hospitals)
- Beaumont Hospital IT department
- genetic scientists at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
- Epilepsy Ireland (national organisation supporting people with epilepsy and their families) and
- industry technology partners ERGO Solutions
From this collaborative network, co-design teams of people with epilepsy, family members and carers, healthcare practitioners, geneticists and software engineers worked together to identify requirements for enhancing the epilepsy EPR to facilitate 3P care.
When FutureNeuro was successfully funded by Science Foundation Ireland, she brought the lighthouse project and her team into the centre under the ehealth pillar to engage in socio-technical inquiry aimed at unlocking the potential of electronic health records to support miRNA and genomics research as well as the development of Clinical Decision Support Systems.
She and her multidisciplinary team are helping to build a national understanding of the quality, safety and efficiency benefits of electronic health records and to illustrate the economic opportunity for Ireland in terms of becoming a global leader in eHealth technology development and use. They demonstrate how eHealth technologies can embed a model of precision, proactive and personalized medicine into the clinical pathway leading to better health outcomes for Irish citizens and improved value from finite healthcare resources.